Expands religious exemptions for employer mandates to include influenza & EUA vaccines, prohibits inquiry & discrimination, provides penalties

State: AZ
Bill Number: SB 1250
Position: SUPPORT
Action Required: NONE
Status: VETOED by Governor Katie Hobbs on 3/30/2023

Legislation Details:

UPDATE: 3/30/2023 - SB 1250 was VETOED by Governor Katie Hobbs on 3/30/2023. The governor's statement is here

UPDATE: 3/27/2023 - SB 1250 was transmitted to the Governor on 3/27/2023. 

UPDATE: 3/23/2023 - SB 1250 was reported from the Committee of the Whole with DO PASS recommendation and passed the Third Reading in the full House by a vote of 31 Yeas, 29 Nays, on 3/23/2023. 

UPDATE: 3/21/2023 - House Majority Caucus and House Minority Caucus voted YES on SB 1250 on 3/21/2023.

UPDATE: 3/19/2023 - SB 1250 is on the agenda for the House Rules Committee on 3/20/2023.  Agenda - https://www.azleg.gov/getCurrentPDF/?doctype=A&docid=16084

UPDATE: 3/13/2023 - SB 1250 was reported from the House Health & Human Services Committee as DO PASS by a vote of 5 Yeas, 4 Nays. To view the vote details, view the SB 1250 State Record, under 'Overview' scroll and click on 'House Standing Details.' 

UPDATE: 3/7/2023 - SB 1250 was scheduled for a hearing in the House Health & Human Services Committee on Monday, 3/13/2023 at 2:00 pm in House Hearing Room 4. Agenda can be viewed HERE. Members of the public may access a livestream of the meeting here: https://www.azleg.gov/videoplayer/?clientID=6361162879&eventID=2023031046

UPDATE: 3/2/2023 - SB 1250 was referred to the House Health & Human Services Committee on 3/2/2023. 

UPDATE: 3/01/2023 - SB 1250 was transmitted to House

UPDATE: 2/28/2023 - SB 1250 was amended on the floor and passed by the Committee on the Whole on 2/28/2023. The bill passed the Senate on the third reading by a vote of 16 Yes, 13 No, 1 NV.  The floor amendment made several modifications, none of which caused NVIC to change their position. They included: 

  • Removed the employer exception to the religious vaccination exemption requirement where providing a reasonable accommodation would cause more than a de minimus cost to the employer
  • Requires an employer to allow an employee to request, rather than claim, a religious vaccination exemption
  • Removes the requirement that employers use a prescribed exemption form and instead requires each employer's exemption form to include outlined information
  • Expands and modifies the information required to be included on a religious vaccination exemption form.
  • Prohibits employers from inquiring into an employee's religious beliefs, practices or observances only to the extent beyond what is allowed under federal law.
  • Applies the religious vaccination exemption requirements to religious practices and observances.
  • Requires employers to keep the contents of a religious exemption request confidential, rather than in strict confidence, and states employers may not share the contents within the organization except to the extent necessary to process the exemption, accommodation or other operational necessity.
  • Specifies that employers are prohibited from sharing religious exemption requests outside of the organization only if not otherwise required by law.

UPDATE: 2/14/2023 - SB 1250 passed the Senate Minority and Majority Caucus on 2/14/2023. 

UPDATE: 2/7/2023 - SB 1250 passed the Senate Health & Human Services Committee with an amendment by a vote of 4-3. 

The amendment on lines 12, 13, and 14 of page 2 changed the bill to instead of prohibiting creating a database of exemption requests, allows employers to create a data base base for internal use only by making the following changes:

Employers may not create a database of religious exemption requests or share the requests or the content of the requests with any other entity or individual, except as provided by law. for internal use only.

Additionally, the amendment changed the Section that allows for health care employee complaints with the Attorney General for employer non-compliance to include all employees. 

While we like the expansion to now include all employees, allowing a database of exemption requests, even if it's for internal use only, could result in other forms of employee discrimination. A suggested improvement would be to prohibit all forms of discrimination or revert to not allowing the creation of a database. 

UPDATE: 2/2/2023 - SB 1250 is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Health & Human Services Committee on Tuesday, 2/7/2023 at 2:00 pm in Senate Hearing Room 1. Agenda: https://www.azleg.gov/agendas/0207012025127.pdf

Members of the public may access a livestream of the meeting here: https://www.azleg.gov/videoplayer/?clientID=6361162879&eventID=2023021028

SB 1250 was introduced and referred to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on 1/30/2023. This bill is sponsored by Senate Member Janae Shamp.

SB 1250 amends existing Arizona Statute Section 23-206 that allows religious exemptions for employer mandated COVID-19 vaccination to add influenza and any Emergency Use vaccines by the FDA. 

An employer may not:

1. inquire into the veracity of a employee's religious beliefs.

2. discriminate against an employee regarding employment, wages or benefits based on the employee's vaccination status.

An employer shall shall keep the request and the contents of the request in strict confidence and may not share them within that organization except to the extent absolutely necessary to process the request for exemption. Employers may not create a database of religious exemption requests or share the requests or the content of the requests with any other entity or individual, except as provided by law. 

As defined in this bill, "Sincerely held religious beliefs" includes a sincerely held moral or ethical belief.

This bill also adds new Section 36-425.09 to create a complaint process for health care employees and penalties against employers for noncompliance. 

NVIC SUPPORTS SB 1250 because it expands the vaccines that qualify for a religious exemption, expands the definition of religious beliefs to include moral or ethical beliefs, and prohibits discrimination. This bill could be improved to include all vaccines that are required for adults or even to prohibit employer mandates all together. NVIC is opposed to all vaccination mandates including those required for continued employment.